Tag Archives: marsh wren nest

Kind of All Over the Place, 04-07-18

It was raining and overcast when I got up, and rained on and off for most of the day. I eased into my morning with some coffee, and did some journaling. We had to be out of the house between 1:00 and 4:00 pm because the realtor-people wanted to do an Open House today. *Sigh*

The dog and I went to Woodland first. I wanted to see if I could find the Burrowing Owls along Road 104… only to find that you can’t get there from Woodland (even though the maps say you can) because the Conaway Ranch blocks the way. *Sigh* Driving around, though, looking for a different route of access to Road 104, I came across the Egret and Heron rookery along Road 103.

There’s a stand of eucalyptus trees in someone’s front yard, and the trees are full of nests. I didn’t go onto the property, but parked across the road and got a few photos. The white Great Egrets are so white that when I tried to get a photo of the nests underneath them, the birds blended in with the “white” sky. I’ll have to go back there and try other settings some other day. I saw Great Egrets and a pair of Black-Crowned Night Herons. It looks like they’re just starting their nests. I saw some egrets in a nearby field, picking up sticks as building materials. the nests look so “small” in comparison to the size of the birds, but I guess they know what they’re doing. Hah!

Then I headed back toward Sacramento and stopped at William Land Park to see the big pond there. It had been closed “forever” while it was refurbished and cleaned out, and I hadn’t been there since they opened it up again last month. It looks very much like it did before, only a little tidier.

Because the water is so “clean” right now, there are no fish, crustaceans or waterborne insects for the birds to eat, so there weren’t a lot of birds hanging around; mostly just ducks and geese. One mama Mallard had a troupe of ducklings already (one of them very “blonde”). I’m assuming she’s a new mom, though, because her kids runs all over the place and she doesn’t supervise them well. Hah! Sergeant Margie liked the walk around the pond.

I was irritated to see a couple walking a large dog that was obviously a wolf-hybrid (which are illegal to own in California)… and they were walking it without a leash. The woman had the leash in her hand but not on the dog. That dog was big enough to take down a CAR. Where are these humans’ brains?!

Then I went over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if I could find the Virginia Rail that has been hanging out by the boardwalk. (She’s there almost every year and usually has a clutch of 3 or 4 chicks.) No rail – but I think she was hiding because there were a bunch of single parents there with their screaming kids. I saw one kid trying to chase down and stomp on a sparrow, and I wanted to smack him. Hateful little bastard. I just don’t understand what motivates that kind of behavior.

I did get some photos of Tree Swallows, Marsh Wren nests, and some bullfrogs. I tried to get some photos of a young garter snake slithering through the water, but it moved too quickly, so I only go the center portion of it. No one else could tell it was snake in the water, I guess, I know what it is. Hah!

By the time I was done there it was almost 4:00 pm, so I headed back to the house and thankfully the realtor people were gone.

Things are Getting Interesting at the Wildlife Refuge, 10-28-17

At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the wetlands areas aren’t completely flooded yet, so it’s not as full of birds as it could be… but there were a lot of the early-arrival species like the White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and Gadwalls. I also saw a few different species of sparrow including Song Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows, a Dark-Eyed Junco, and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. Among the other birds I saw – like the Wilson’s Snipes, Killdeer, Black-Necked Stilts, and American Pipits — a nice surprise was spotting the local Peregrine Falcon who was sitting up in “the eagle-tree”. He was obscured by branches and twigs, but I got a few fair photos of him.

Later on, I came across a trio of mule deer browsing in the tall grass and weeds.  One was a male, a two-pointer, and I couldn’t see any details but could tell there was a big lump – like a knot made out of hide — on the side of his head near one of his eyes. It looked like the eye was missing, but I’m not sure; it could have just been that the knot was casting a shadow over the eye socket. It didn’t seem to inhibit the buck or interfere with his ability to move around…

The big surprise of the day, though, was when I saw a skunk moving along the tules and weeds on the edge of one of the wetland ponds, and stopped to take some photos and video of it. As I watched it, I could hear it nattering angrily at something and thought maybe there was another skunk or a snake or something near it in the weeds…  When a raccoon climbed out over the vegetation and moved gingerly past the skunk I had to laugh.  I wasn’t expecting that at all!  You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/yrja6wSMtxA.

I saw another raccoon further along the auto tour route near the large viewing platform.  I heard first as it went scuffing through the fallen dried leaves under the platform, and then saw it as it was walking away along the edge of the slough near the base of the platform.

Here is an album of pix: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157665598291929

I was at the refuge for about 3 ½  hours and then turned around and headed back home.

More Photos from the Sacramento Refuge

Here are some more photos from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  CLICK HERE to see the album.

I got a video snippet of a muskrat.  It waddled up onto the auto-tour road, grabbed some green vegetation and went back into the tules.  I wonder if it’s setting up a “nest” there.  Where they’re able to, muskrats will burrow into the bank and set up a nesting hole in the ground (with an entrance to the water). If they can’t do that, then they’ll create a structure called a “push-up” made of reeds, vegetation and mud… There are heaps of dead tules in places along the edges of the wetland areas at the refuge, including several of them along the auto-tour route, which I think might make building a push-up really easy for the muskrats…

I saw some Great Horned Owls dozing in a tree, but they were so obscured by branches and twiglets that the camera couldn’t figure out what to focus on, so I couldn’t get any decent photos of them.  And I saw a Killdeer running and squawking along the edges of a slough.  At first I didn’t know what it was excited about, but then I could see it had some babies with it. One of the youngsters was loitering along the water’s edge, and mom was having a fit because it wouldn’t follow her.  Hah!

I also came across a pair of Double-Crested Cormorants (on the little island they often share with the pelicans and ducks), and watched while one of them did a jumping and barking kind of dance around the other before it took off and landed in the water behind the island. I’d never seen that behavior before, so I looked it up.

“…Ritualized agonistic displays are associated with takeoff and landing in both sexes. Before takeoff, individual stretches neck in direction it wishes to go, inflates head and neck and gives t-t-t-t-t call through almost-closed bill. Before landing, often calls urgurgurg and gives Kink-Throat Display, which is given also during working of nest material; lowers hyoid apparatus, making orange pouch conspicuous. Immediately after landing, gives characteristic post-landing display in which it holds head horizontally and slightly below arched and inflated neck. These displays also precede and follow a hop, which functions as symbolic or reduced flight, and occurs in various social contexts…” (https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/doccor/behavior) Hah!  How interesting!

The one thing I saw a lot of out there today was insects: lots of butterflies, dragonflies and spiders.  I was happy to see one beautiful Anise Swallowtail, and I also saw some Monarchs, but none of them sat still long enough for me to get photos of them. Among the other insects spotted today were: Variegated Meadowhawks, Garden Orb Weavers, Widow Skimmers, Common Buckeyes, West Coast Ladies, Cabbage Whites and Sulphurs, a Meadow Katydid nymph, Crescent butterflies, Painted Ladies, Pipevine Swallowtails and Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees.  I also found a dead Green Darner dragonfly that was pretty well desiccated by the heat. It’s always sad to find them dead, but the find gave me the opportunity to get some close-ups of the dragonfly’s head and eyes…

Birds, Deer and Dragonflies at the Refuge, 08-27-16

I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed out with the dog to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It was in the 50’s when we left the house, and got up to about 81° by the late afternoon; so it was a nice day.  I also had the whole refuge to myself; didn’t see another car or person all the while I was out there which was double-nice.

This is one of the last weekends the refuge will have its extension loop open, so I wanted to make sure to be able to see that.  It was nice to see that the refuge is already pumping water into the seasonal wetland areas (which is kind of unusual for August): the more water there is, the more birds there are to see.  Some of the ducks, especially Pintails, were moving in already.  I also saw a few Widgeons, Ruddy Ducks, and Northern Shovelers.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos from the day.

I saw three sets of mule deer.  One was a male with two females (which may have been his mom and sibling), another set was a mama with her two fawns (that were just growing out of their spots, and the third set was a mama and her yearling. What struck me about these deer was that their coats were a lot lighter than the coats of the deer near the American River. They were almost a bright straw color rather than tan…

There were all sorts of grebes out on the water: Pied-Billed Grebes, Clark’s Grebes and Western Grebes.  The little white fuzzy babies are now fledglings; still paler than their parents but getting big.  I got a video snippet of one parent feeding a fish to its baby, er, teenager…

CLICK HERE for a video of a scruffy-looking juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe.

 CLICK HERE for a video of a Clark’s Grebe feeding its baby a fish.

I saw a family of otters around the permanent wetland area, but they moved so fast, I couldn’t get any decent photos of them. Once I saw them running across the road, and at another spot, they poked their heads out of the water right down from my driver’s side door.  Each time, I pulled my camera up to get photos of them, they whisked away out of sight.  Rrrg! That’s nature photography for you.

Sergeant Margie and I lunched in the car halfway through the auto-tour route by the viewing platform: ham and cheese with crackers.  Then we went on…

At one point along the route, a mother raccoon and her four babies came waddling down the road right toward me.  I didn’t want to startle them, so I put the car in park and watched them through the windshield. Filming and photographing through the windshield sucks, but it was still fun to see them.

CLICK HERE for a video of the raccoons.

There were a lot of American White Pelicans around, flying, swimming, fishing, standing around – including some juveniles with pink bills.  It’s so fun to watch them when they’re fishing together; like synchronized swimming.

CLICK HERE for a video of the Pelicans.

There weren’t as many dragonflies out and about as during previous visits, but I still got photos pf Variegated Meadowhawks, Black Saddlebags, Blue-Eyed Darners, Green Darners, and some Pondhawks.

Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

The best photo I got for the day was of a hawk.  It was one of the last photos of the day; the bird was just sitting in a tree on the side of the road, looking handsome.  It was a nice day.  The drive back to Sacramento was without incident and we made it home a little after 2:00 pm.

From Grebes to Lerps at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid Lerps. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Red Gum Eucalyptus Psyllid Lerps. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

Still feeling pretty tired this morning.  I think I’m fighting off a cold or something, but I’m not sure…  It was overcast for most of the day, and in the afternoon it actually rained… for a minute or two.  Hah!

At noon, I headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  Traffic in Woodland was surprisingly horrid, though, and it took me over 30 minutes to get from the office to the freeway onramp, which is literally only about a mile and half. (It usually takes me about 6 minutes to do that.)  The freeway itself wasn’t bad, though, and I got to the refuge around 1:30 pm.  I was going to do a really fast run through it, and ended up spending about 2 hours there.  But I enjoyed my time at the refuge, even though I didn’t see much of anything new.

I did get to see a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes on their floating mat nest… But I was most anxious to see if the Clark’s Grebes’ nests had survived the wind and waves from last weekend.  The one nest I saw last time that the parents were battling to keep afloat so their eggs wouldn’t drown didn’t make it.  It was in pieces, and there were some Coots were fighting over it.  Usually Coot nests are built from the bottom up (like a volcanic island of twigs and sticks and grass; a huge mountain under the water, and then the little peak peeking up above the surface.  I don’t think the Grebe nests have that kind of solid base… It’ll be interesting to see if the Coots can make the old Grebe nest work for them… The Grebe nests that seemed to be doing well were those that were built further away from the edges of the wetland area – and I’m assuming they were built by more experienced couples.

CLICK HERE for more photos.